Archive for July 10, 2007

Blogging Hierarchy

July 10, 2007

From Matt Yglesias, something I’ve also noticed about the liberal blogosphere:

A [blog]caste system is solidifying and a new establishment is crystallizing.

I suspect lots of folks are going to pin this one on human nature. I think that’s both wrong and dangerous. Instead, I think this reflects existing socialization and the existing nature of (mostly American) society: hierarchy is promoted all over the place, and it stands to reason a whole bunch of more-or-less (mostly white) liberal folks are just going to replicate what they know. Just because the potential for more democracy exists with the physical infrastructure of the Internet doesn’t mean the social development is going to be hierarchy-free. In fact, if that were the case I’d be floored.

That said, I’m reminded of Michael Albert’s point that not taking advantage of talent is just stupid – but I think the consequence of a blog caste system or hierarchy is that new talent or developed talent now has some pretty serious barriers to entry, and that’s not very democratic, now is it? Especially of the liberal blogosphere is tilted toward highly educated white men, as seems to be the case.

Look at me – it’s almost cute, how much I rely on the assumption that people are rational animals (even if it’s learned rationality). Sigh.


The Future of Journalism

July 10, 2007

Via Newspaper Death Watch (I think), a post on why the future of journalism is bright. Given that I’m normally a pessimist when it comes to the future of journalism, especially newspapers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I agreed with a lot of what this Mark Glaser guy has to say.

Also, I really like the fact that he’s writing at Given the insanity surrounding PBS in the last few years, I’m glad to see a sane voice there at the moment. Anyway, the post is basically a ten-point list; I’ll excerpt and comment on whatever points strike my fancy.

Without further ado:

4. There are more fact-checkers than ever in the history of journalism. Maybe it’s true that professional fact-checking has taken a big hit in the layoffs at mainstream media outlets, but it’s also true that bloggers and free-thinkers online have provided an important check and balance to reporting. They might have an axe to grind or a political bias, but if they uncover shoddy reporting, plagiarism or false sourcing, it’s a good thing for journalists and the public.

See what I mean? I think the guy actually gets it. For me, the point of journalism is to inform people of what’s going on in the world. It’s necessary because individuals don’t all have the time to personally check out each and every event or incident or happening – so some people have as a profession doing just that (and then telling others). This isn’t new; some form of this has been going on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

A second reason to have journalism is that it allows, when done well, for people to become relative experts on a topic and present it to others in an accessible format (think Marcy Wheeler on the Scooter Libby stuff) or Nick Kristof and his coverage of Darfur.

Of course, the journalism business relies on being able to tell the truth accurately, which is a pretty complex task that takes a lot of brainpower and fact-checking. The more complex and larger a story is, the more likely it is to make a mistake. Ergo, having more people to fact-check – people that are often well-versed on the topic at hand, even if they’re not employees of a news organization – the more accurate to reality, and therefore better, a story will be.

This is controversial, believe it or not, in some ways. The reason it’s controversial is that it takes the ‘expert’ label away from journalists, editors, and other media types and gives it – potentially – to a whole lot of people. Some journalists don’t like this, because it’s a removal of their gatekeeper function (Yes, I am thinking of Hasso Hering), and with that comes a drop in status and/or power.

Too fucking bad. If the point of journalism is to report on the world in the most accurate way possible, then an individual’s – or a profession’s – ego should have no part in it. I was taught way back in high school that an essential part of being a journalist is the ability to take criticism and critique honestly and openly, and to use that criticism to make the story better. To me, that is the desired effect of having, as Glaser notes, “…more fact-checkers than ever in the history of journalism.”

Also, it makes journalism more democratic and promotes skill-sharing, two things that I think make for a better, more interesting, and more just world. Plus they have the added bonus of removing power from the corporate media.

Glaser also says:

6. More voices are part of the news conversation. In the past, if you wanted to voice your opinion, correct a fact or do your own reporting, you had to work at a mainstream news organization. Now, thanks to the rising influence of independent bloggers and online journalists, there are more outsiders and experts exerting influence over the news agenda. Not only does that mean we have a more diverse constellation of views, but it also takes the concentrated agenda-setting power out of a few hallowed editorial boardrooms.

See my above comments – more democratic, etc., etc. Heck, I’d love to see most of the profession of journalism wither away as more and more people take over the production and distribution of news content. Added benefit: More people become engaged in the community they live in as they are more aware of what’s going on. Result: more democracy!

I should be more explicit about the above point: Lots of news stories still misrepresent people (often marginalized groups) precisely because as professionals, journalists are only familiar with people like them. Lowering the barriers to entry would hopefully allow more points of view to be heard, which would result in a more accurate portrayal of everyone, not just the people that are most like journalists. I’m thinking of people of color and homeless folks specifically.

…yeah yeah yeah, democracy is messy, and who says the people that get involved won’t be asshats? No one, but I’ll take an engaged, locally controlled community over a bunch of yuppie suburbanites who might as well be zombies just about every time.

Given the length of this post already, I’m going to stop here, but you should go and read the whole thing. It’s pretty good.

Get Off My Lawn, Part II

July 10, 2007

Hering’s at it again – this time he thinks the music that companies pipe into restaurants and stores is too loud. He also thinks it’s a bad idea because – well, I’ll let him explain it:

What about the kind of music that the providers of these sound systems assume we like? … With that much individual choice available — and in use, considering the vast number of people walking around with phones in their ears — mass exposure to background music is the last thing that anybody wants or needs. Or so you would think.

Again, I sort of understand where he’s coming from (though I’ve never actually been in a place where the music is so loud as to inhibit conversation, except for bars, where it’s understandable), but he just comes across as an old man complaining again. Maybe if he did some digging and found out why music is played in the first place and then wrote about that…but that would require research and reporting. Apparently that’s too much to ask for an editor, or something. As it stands, the editorial reads like he wrote it at the last second. In school, we called it “bullshitting” or “pulling it out of your ass.” I suppose in the ‘real world’ it’s called “working under pressure,” or something…

Obligatory Post About Joss Whedon

July 10, 2007

I should note that I never really got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I’m a sucker for Firefly and Serenity.

Anyway, this is pretty funny – and really, really good:

My favorite quote:

“Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this Earth…”


July 10, 2007

I hate the heat.

That is all.